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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

The Graduate (1967)



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Mike Nichols' brilliantly filmed The Graduate once spoke more powerfully than it does today. It was made at a time when the generation gap was broader than it is now; nonetheless, as long as that context can be assumed, The Graduate can be quite rewarding. Like all great movies, it inspires thought.

The thought it inspires, though, is of a curious nature. I weigh in my head two alternative interpretations of the movie. If it's a champion of the younger generation, then the movie relies too much on social context to deliver its message. Already assuming a society in which the distance and fault of the previous generation, we can easily cheer for the triumph of Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman). But while the relationship between Braddock and Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) works, the relationship between Braddock and Elaine Robinson (Katharine Ross) does not. What attracts Braddock to her? More importantly, what on earth attracts her to him? Their relationship takes turns that don't quite make sense.

But what if this movie weren't a champion of the younger generation at all but a satirical look at its social rebellion? Mrs. Robinson is ten times the character her daughter is. A relationship with her is still a mistake, but the symbolic rejection of the older generation in favor of something less substantial might be the ultimate in scathing social commentary against the very same that embraced this movie in 1967 and gave it its iconic status. Consider the final scene. Note the silence, distance, and utter lack of passion -- even lack of eye contact. With this interpretation, the movie makes miscalculations, too, but, again, it's still powerful.

I haven't quite decided how to look at this movie. It'll take successive viewings and a lot of thought. Great movies make those sorts of demands. Even great but flawed movies.